Tuesday 22 December, 2015

OSR Christmas or How the grognard stole Christmas


Well it’s December 2015. I’m still trying to figure out what happened this year. New management at work, some ups and downs with health, and I am still sitting on 4 projects that I need to get out the door. Enough of my bellyaching though. It’s the season of Santa, Jedi, Amazon packages, candy, and lots of booze. The only thing December does not have enough of it gaming. Sure, the holidays are such an awesome time to get together with friends and family, break out the board games or play D&D… the reality of it is… too busy. However, I know that there are many of you who have had a chance to game, some of you found the time to roll some bones and kill and Orc or three. To you I tip my hat.

Now onto the reason I am posting today. Well Erik Tenkar over at Tenkar’s Tavern has put together a wonderful little diddy called the 12 days of OSR Christmas. Many from the OSR (and gaming) communities have been giving away some wonderful gifts for the holiday. Well being a gamer, a huge fan of the OSR, and someone who likes giving gifts in general I decided to be one of Tenkar’s elves and spread some holiday cheer. So I am giving away one copy of Tales From the Fallen Empire hardcover, one copy of Tales From the Fallen Empire softcover (both with a referee’s screen), and two copies of Gygax Magazine issue 6 (which includes a great RPG “Pulp Era”… OK, I call it great because I helped write it, but still).

“So how can I get some of this great swag?”, you might be asking yourself. Well it is simple. Since I am not going to be rolling any d20s until January, I need to live vicariously through you. So in order to try and win some of my Christmas swag, I need you to entertain me with a holiday gaming story. Tell me about how Sir Thurstan saved the town from Kobolds stealing presents, or about how a cyborg Santa came to town looking to kill off Gandalf. It can be a short story, a limerick, or a poem.  Those that I find amusing, I will randomly choose to win a holiday OSR gift. I may even have a few other goodies up my sleeve, so others might receive something cool as well. So please, give me a great gaming story. I will announce the winners by New Years eve and get mailing information from them at that time.

Anyway, have a great holiday everyone! If you have not seen the Force Awakens, try and get out and see it. Heck I am going on Tuesday and I am very excited… like a child of nine, the age I was when I watched “A New Hope” back in 77.




  • Jon says:

    It was in 1991 and I was 18-19 years old. I was at the computer lab at UW chatting on IRC with a few people about RPGs when a stranger came in to our channel and started asking about computer RPGs. We informed him we were talking about tabletop RPGs and he had no clue what they were like. So we tried explaining it and he just wasn’t getting it so I decided to run him through a quick RPG right then and there. It went something like this:

    “You’re a soldier in the Vietnam War. You’ve been separated from your platoon and you’re walking alone through the jungle trying to find your way back.”

    I think he asked about what kind of stuff he was carrying so I told him he had an M-16, a couple of grenades, and some rations.

    “As you’re walking through the jungle, you hear a twig snap.”

    He said he started looking around.

    “There’s a young Vietnamese soldier ahead of you in the bushes. He’s got a rifle pointed at you and it looks like he’s hiding someone behind him.”

    A little combat ensued (which was all handled freeform) and he ended up shooting and killing the soldier. He then approaches the body.

    “As you approach, an old woman runs out from the bushes, wailing. She grabs the rifle and points it at you. She’s screaming at you in Vietnamese as she pulls the trigger and nothing happens. She starts messing with the levers on the gun and keeps pulling the trigger.”

    He wasn’t sure what to do then. After a few moments of indecision, he pointed the rifle at her and told her to put the gun down.

    “She just keeps screaming at you and fiddling with the gun, pulling the trigger constantly.”

    He was getting worried and fired some warning shots.

    “As she messes with the rifle, something clicks and the gun fires. The bullet goes into the ground about 10 feet in front you.”

    He’s frantic now. He screams at her to put the gun down.

    “She screams back at you and fires again, missing.”

    He shoots her. She dies. He’s upset at having to do such a thing.

    He then thanked me and left the channel. I never did see him on IRC after that. I wonder what he thought of the whole thing.

    I got to show someone why RPGs were fun in about 5-10 minutes and both he and I got a big emotional impact out of it that neither of us was expecting. It wasn’t a great example of a game (talk about railroading!) but it was a great example of what RPGs do that nothing else can.

  • Kelly L'Roy says:

    I’ll go first, shall I?

    There once was an elf from the North Pole,
    Who brought back the toys that the goblins stole,
    He hunted them down,
    And smacked them around,
    And said, “This is just like whack-a-mole!”

  • Rob Brennan says:

    The first competition D&D game I played in at a convention, in 1984, had a bit of a Christmas theme. In fact my only real memory of the scenario was looting the back rooms of a music store – where there were racks and racks of top 10 Christmas singles laid out for all the years ahead. Someone was obviously feeling very cynical about the music business!

  • Tim Werner says:

    The tales of the Nask from the beginning of the campaign until his death….

    Færûn Campaign – Notes from a Dead Pine Folk Dude — Part I

    The campaign begins with a robed Human and a lightly armoured Pine Folk walking with what is apparently a lightly armoured Wood Elf in the wild surrounds near Wheloon. They’ve recently arrived in the area via a trade caravan from Waterkeep. The Volodni, Naskyara of the Shadowed Grove follows the Sublime Way as a Swordsage. Most people just call him, “Nask.” The Wood Elf is really a Drow named Char. He has been trained in the ways of the fighter and rogue. Juan the Wizard is also with the party (supposed to a “virtual” player, ended up being a NPC).

    Wheloon is located in Cormyr where the Wyvern Flow river intersects with the Way of the Manticore (what I referred to as Cormyr’s I-5), and it is because of this that it is a prime location for trade. It is currently around late summer in the year of 1374 DR.

    …Back to the party. It is approaching nightfall. The party has set up camp with a distant view of some ruins and is far enough from Wheloon to proceed in the morning rather that press on at night. A distraught wandering priest of Mystra, mumbling phrases “Lady Arthus” & “Do they really have Mystra’s sacred trust!”, asked to rest at the camp-site. As Nask needs only 2 hours sleep and ¼ the food humans do, there was plenty to go around and offer Fembreeze (the priest) to sup with us. While eating, Fembreeze explains how there was suddenly a “new” temple of Mystra set up in the old ruins outside of Wheloon. Fembreeze is fairly high up in the order of Mystra but has never heard of this temple. When he went there and tried to make inquiries, he was actually escorted off the premises! He then approached the local aristocracy, Lord Redbeard, to complain. Redbeard dispatched some Purple Dragons to investigate, but they found nothing amiss (or likely either didn’t look at all, bumbled the scope-out, or took a bribe). Fembreeze feels a pressing need to report the issue to his superiors with much post-haste. He commissions the party infiltrate the temple, find out any information and to kill any infidels (to the tune of 500 gp each, half up-front, and a writ to collect the rest at any temple of Mystra after submitting to “truth” spell and verified completed).

    As we get closer to Wheloon, we find a boat and try to cross a lake. (Who knew there would be extra big fresh water sharks in the lake in case people used boats in it?) When we finally arrive in Wheloon, Char promptly locates a trader of magical goods to obtain a Healing Belt. While snooping around the locale to get information of the pseudo-temple of Mystra, we are beseeched by the wife of the missing bookseller, Annick Bussalt. Mela (the wife) is very distraught. She came home to find him missing about one week ago. We have her take us to the Booke Seller’s Shoppe to check the Annick’s last known location. There are signs of struggle and cracked floorboards.

    The pseudo-temple is just outside of town and not much time since we have broke fast. We decide to proceed as we’ve heard they have an open courtyard during the daylight hours to receive supplicants. We find no problem gaining admission to the outer courtyard, albeit, it is obvious there are guards strategically placed on a raised platform above/around the courtyard area. In the courtyard are five other curious visitors and two priests walking amongst the gathering. After looking around a bit and standing around, one of the priests approaches us. After some discourse, he advises us to attend a “special” evening ceremony. He goes and gets a higher priest to make sure we are worthy to go to the ceremony. The guy is a really unpleasant fellow and Char gets a grudge. He tells Nask and Juan to keep an eye about things and does a really good sneaky. The guy is in his room and somehow doesn’t ever notice Char as he kills the fucker (metagame note: NPC rolled natural one and JJ rolled a natural 20, essentially allowing for a surprise attack for extra damage that kills the dude). Char manages to locate a secret compartment in the guys desk. Amongst “goodies” for the party, he finds a letter extorting the addressed to get more recruits and is curiously signed “may our goddess find you in shadow – Lady Arthus”. Not much longer, Juan and Nask join Char in the room. They camp out in the room awaiting nightfall.

    Once it is dark enough to do some sneaking, the party sneaks out and comes back around to attend the special evening ritual. However, we are turned away. The temple is closed and special event has been cancelled due to an unexplained, untimely death of one of the higher priests just found, not even an hour ago, grisly dead in his room. The priest saying this gets gruff, not that you need to be knowing all of that, now move along! Nask and Char decide to try sneaking up the hill on the other side of the temple (of which a portion we haven’t seen yet actually goes into the hill). Juan is not ok with that and does not accompany us, waiting at a vantage point in front. A good bout of sneaking and killing guard’s on the ramparts ensues. We flag Juan in with us from the ramparts. Looking around we see the room of murder sealed with the tell-tale purple rope of the poe-leece (Purple Dragons). Onwards to an empty room, then locked double-doors – which are picked by Char.

    Behind the doors is the funeral for Kevrin, the mage-priest of “shadow…goddess” still posed as a priest of Mystra. Overhear mention of the Starry Gnosis, which we’ve somehow gleaned to be a bad joo-joo thang. Situation presents itself as a few guards and the altar boys crying over the corpse. Soon everyone in the room joins the corpse to make a room of dead dudes. We also “silence” the guards that come in to see what the heck is going on in there. …And, lastly, but most laughably, the two guards still in PJs that were quite quickly dispatched. After looting and pillaging the corpses and surrounds (really, we’re not an evil party), we catch a breath before moving onto the next infidel to kill (per contract).

    Short summary of the rest of the ground floor: another epic battle with Juan acid arrowing the boss to death, loot, search dude, get stuff, search room, long deadly battle in the inner sanctuary, find secret compartment in the alter (“Starry Gnosis”), this evil artifact grants darkvision 60ft, but Nask can tell it is bad to touch so we put it away, we sleep, we spend much time breaking down a barred door to find stairs going down.

    …We descend. After rounding a corner of the landing and descending further, an earthly-mass of shadow and stone rises to attack us, along with two guards that were hidden until that popped up. Post-battle we search the surrounding area nearest to the room of broken stone to find many different rooms the two most notable being a room of scrolls that Juan looted and a grisly room of torture. In the macabre room we find, amongst eight heads (as in, not attached to body), a letter from “Astra.”

    The party contemplated checkin’ out, giving the Purple Dragons the information that we did find, and getting to a temple of Mystra to “get paid.” However, we were basked in the holy light of Mystra (talk about some overwhelming good joo-joo) from which her disembodied voiced plead, “Don’t leave! Be the ones to cleanse my name! The name of Mystra!” We awaken refreshed at the campsite.

    Færûn Campaign – Notes from a Dead Pine Folk Dude — Part II

    (metagame note: first session with Kris who attends via internet and webcams)

    After getting back to town and replenishing, we awoke sans Juan. A note, instead, was in his place. Yes, that’s right, Juan was taken hostage and we were to go to 21 Impil Avenue to arrange an exchange to get him back. Are you kidding me? Lucky for us, there just happens to be an undead (formerly Star Elf) Dread Necromancer wanting to join up with us. Other than that formaldehyde smell, dude!

    So, we proceed, knowing that this smells of a trap. No surprise to get ambushed, To the tune of starting combat netted. But not deadface, he lurked behind, using his methods questionable to upright-uptights, but not to us (really! We’re not an evil party). After a massive combat (36 seconds!), we finally bring down the big Human tough with the two-handed sword and the stealthy Halfling bitch. Loot. Get back to the temple and sneak around. End up doing a holy shit combat (1 minute 12 seconds!). After searching rooms, we loot treasure.

    Færûn Campaign – Notes from a Dead Pine Folk Dude — Part III
    (metagame note: Kris absent for his anniversary dinner)

    We walk down a long corridor to come upon an area with an underground river with a narrow walkway over it to an area of which around are various “jail/dungeon” type rooms/cells. Nice bit’o’combat (lasted 1 ¼ minutes!) with 3 guards guarding a lone prisoner and a large Otygua attacking from the underground river. (metagame note: Timmah rolled two 20s w/o crits and a third 20 that did crit for the final blow) The female in the cell is a dominated “convert” from the special ceremony named Vera. She tells us how eight days ago many “converts” were taken by boat to continue with the next phase of their “enlightenment.” It turns out she had just finished a local job and was about to hitch the next ship out of here, here profession being a sailor. She offers to get us to town in the boat left in the underground area, but we decline. We find out the person telling everyone what to do is called, M’Hyr. We search his room and find a map detailing locations such as, “the Lost Refuge” and other areas. There was also a failed shadowgate. Mystra’s presence is profoundly absent, including any statues and/or symbols of her, but so are all the filth/dead gone.

    We get back to town to find that Lord Redbeard has demanded our presence. The aristocrat hardly seems thankful for the work we’ve done for him and states that we better make sure the threat has been completely taken care of since the Lost Refuge seems to still be active and unaware of the pseudo-temple’s cleansing. We go back to the temple and decide that we have earned a permanent keep of which Juan can care for as we proceed to acquiesce the Redbeard Dude. Of course some smoothing of the wheels to the local land owner constable in the form of discrete bribes along with legitimate fees to acquire deeds of ownership. (metagame note: keep at level 6, whoo hoo!, never had a keep at any level, on that note)

    We prepare to travel taking the Way of the Manticore as far as we can before trekking across the wilderness. We espy a camp with two well-dressed fellas sitting ‘round a campfire right on the area marked “Forgotten Shrine” (kinda looks like Stonehenge). Nori (Gnome) and Cubert (Human) have an entirely far too annoying way of having one person start a sentence then have the other finish it. They claim to be clothing merchants that were recently beset upon by bandits. In addition, they tell us about the Tomb of Chones up ahead, where they believe the bandits are. They are WAY too interested in wanting to come with us, so we tell them to piss off. We smelled a fish and didn’t take the bait.

    The Tomb of Chones sits upon a small hill dotted with heather and grass. We espy a small humanoid at the entrance to the tomb by which some light shines out through. We sneak up… The battle of the tomb ends up being us against four Dark Creepers (small humanoids) and one Dark Stalker (human-sized humanoid). As we are on watch while resting in the tomb, who shows up, but Nori & Cubert. They asked if we found their “goods” and we tell them to piss off. Likely they are the bandits, put their stuff in the wrong spot, which then was taken up by the dark ones. Being the chickens they were… well, that’s what we think, anyways. Thinking back it seems that the stalkers may have been referred to in one of the letters we found to make sure the converts made it to the Lost Refuge. We rest without incident and proceed in the morning.

    Along our perilous route we come upon a grisly totem at the cusp where the swamp begins from the general wilderness. We ascertain that this is what is referred to as “The Skull Staff” on the map. We know we are now in lizard folk territory. As we pass the monstrous staff with many races heads “stapled” to it as trophies and/or offerings to some primal deity a shrill whistle erupts filling the air with its cacophonous cringing screech. All around the party forms erupt from the stagnant swamp. A small party versus 3 large, 7 medium and (coming out later) 4 small lizard peoples makes for a bad combat (on the party’s point of view). We put up a good fight, taking out a couple mediums, hitting one or two of the larges, but that is pretty much it. At this grim point of our re-telling, Nask is unconscious and almost dead, Ethos (the dread necro) is somehow paralyzed and Char is at less than half life with most of the lizard folk able to get at him.

    Char falls to his knees, crying out to Mystra and invoking her, pleading with her, to intercede and help the party that fought in her name just recently at the pseudo-temple. He feels the goddess’ presence and instinctively smites his fist to the ground. A flash of light is accompanied with healing power for the party and inflictive damage, along with knocking prone all enemies. The re-invigorated party finishes off the enemies not killed outright, that are still stunned from the goddess’ power as they die with impunity.

    Not but moments after the combat commences, Char disappears. He is whisked away into the goddess’ presence to converse with Mystra. She marks his fist (that he smote the ground with) with her holy symbol. Then Char reappears to the party. We decide to light the skull pillar on fire and burn it to the ground. As the pillar burns, a lone lizard dude appears with hand raised and asking for parley. It turns out this is the current chief of the local lizard peoples and he implores us for help in exchange for information and whatever small help he might have available to us in the way of potions, scrolls, etc… “Dreamwalkers go to the hairy-one keep. Many go in but none come out. The keep is under the command of Ketsarra Shadowscale, some type of half-black dragon creature.” He takes us back to his “village.” In the center of the lizard folk area is a gyser. As we approach the center, a shriek like a hawk is heard as gray tentacles erupt from the ground. It’s always a party when a Grell and Undead Lizardmen are involved. At least for most people. For our group killing the grell and having the deadface take over the undead minions made it look too easy. In an uncharacteristic display of wastefulness, Ethos had the dead guys stand over the geyser hole until it erupted. Healed up Kessessik (the chief) with a potion.

    It seems much more is going on than just a freaked-out unsanctioned Mystra cult exploring the shadow-weave. Lost Refuge is the next stop.

    Færûn Campaign – Notes from a Dead Pine Folk Dude — Part IV

    (metagame note: first [and last] session with Andrew)

    Through the vagaries and unquestioned happenings of Mystra, a half-Orc Cleric of Tempus joins our party.

    Kessessik (the lizardman cheiftan we parleyed with and helped on the last session) gave us information on the lost refuge, and gave the party a cure wand (and activation word) and went into hiding to recoup.

    On the way to the refuge, we ran into 2 huge-sized crocodiles. Nask got a good hit and made crocodile soup of the 1st one and the 2nd one crit-fumbled, not once, but twice! (1st was a “torn muscle” which lowered STR and/or DEX, and 2nd was “dust in the eye” which blinded him).

    After that battle we came upon the eldritch keep (big pools of water entering via SW and NE corners).

    We decide to bluff our way in playing at being dominated “enlightened ones” sent to the keep. We gain entrance to the keep and in the courtyard there are a bunch of evil-looking weird guys with pieces of iron piercing their skin in many areas. The bluff is over and we fight. Not too harrowing of a battle, but within a round or two after that, 5 undead lizard guys lead by an evil bitch in plate-mail come at us.

    That battle was fairly long/harrowing, the climax at the end with two lizard guys Ethos controlled finishing off the bitch Nask got a few hits on. Instead of entering the main keep, we back-track to the guardroom that we heard other voices in and kill the fuck out of those guys. Nask razzed Char because he kept missing the guy he was fighting until the Pinde Dude got over there and kilt him (Naskyara kilt 3 dudes with one hit, and Ethos controlled lizard guys took two out, at the cost of one of the undeads).

    We had really big battle in the entry-room of the keep that could have went a lot worse, had we not gone in from the side instead of the front door. (because we snuck through the side, the guys did not get to set up all there buffs before fighting us).

    In the great hall, we faced off 5 Shadar-Kai, 1 Shadar-Kai boss, and a 1/2 dragon bitch priestess of Shar. That was a gnarly battle that required lots of potions and hero points to be used by Nask and Char (we didn’t use Ethos stuff without him there) but at least we didn’t need a divine intervention to stop a TPK. Toward the beginning Nask was hit with a ray of enfeeblement that knocked him down to 5 STR, but the party had a restoration potion, so the Pine Dude was able to get back up in-time to do good in battle. Ethos got crit-hit on by a tough, and it was really tense many times throughout the battle. We finally got them down after 9 rounds of battle (just under one minute).

    At the end, we find a letter from some Graycastle guy to thicken the plot more and give the party leads to follow. The party also is able to determine that the massive, nasty black pulsating thing in the middle of the great hall is a portal to the shadow plane.

    We holed up in the gatehouse to recoup. (metagame note: Jason gave us one mulligan to level up without going to town) Char became a cleric of Mystra (metagame note: he gets 1 extra level of cleric that will last for this adventure).

    Færûn Campaign – Notes from a Dead Pine Folk Dude — Part V
    (metagame note: first session with Jerusha)

    At the end of the previous session, Char disappeared to converse with Mystra again.

    In the main room, we find the secret door to a private alter room dedicated to Shar, goddess of the shadow-weave, and essentially the antithesis of Mystra, goddess of magic (the weave). We decide to destroy the alter, and soon after find ourselves embroiled in combat. One of the enemies was some kind of shadowy mastiff that had a fear howl. I failed the save and was of no use to the combat (I fled to the adjoining room until I could ascertain combat was done so that I could return without the fear stopping me). Our newest member, Druma (aka Dru), a kick-ass mistress of combat (female fighter), manages to take out the stoopid dawg. Also of note, the Dreadhead took over 3 undead enemies, but had to keep them at a distance as they sucked up spells. After a futile search that gains the party net zero, we proceed upstairs…

    Whoah. We end up fighting a pretty major battle with a Khumat, bi-pedal shadowy alligator dude, with his mooks. Also of note, the rest of the lizard people that Kessisssik asks us to free, if found, were found and freed.

    On the way back to Wheloon, we get to meet a 8-headed Hydra. Yay! Some notable moments from this battle was when the Dread Necro triple-crit the Hydra for 69 damage (but Hydra made the save and only took half). Nask managed to get a critical hit while throwing a flask of oil onto the Hydra to get the stumps flamable. Dru crits the Hydra for 8pts damage, 1 CON & 1 CHA damage. Then Nask gets ANOTHER crit for 52 points of damage (1/2 fire damage!). Talk about a dead Hydra in less than ½ a minute.

    We get back to Wheloon. While we’re there, we manage to do some shopping. While doing so, we try to find someone that might be interested in buying the shadow flasks we found, in hopes to get some good information about portals to the shadow plane and any other information to help us decide if we want to use the portal that is in the Lost Refuge. We end up hooking up with a Shade, Leisure Suit Larry, that offers to buy the flasks, gives us some good general info about the Plane’o’Shadow, and gives us a special way to re-contact him if we need to sell more “shadow” stuff. Dude is from Anarouch and is one cool cat (especially him being a Shade, and all). Char tries to intercede with Mystra to get some solid guidance of what to do next, but gets a nil response.

    We decide the best course of action is to head to the swamp to make the countryside safer and get some bad guys into a dead state. Also, to get the power level up on the Necro-dude and Druma. We run into a couple of Manticores. One crit-fails on Druma, so we have a field day on the mamas and take them out. However, right after the battle commences, a big-ass lobster-looking thang comes out of the swamp (Chuul). The weirdness doesn’t end there, because then an assassin vine tries to take down the Dreadhead. Dumb ass, that vine became green pulp in one round.

    So, it turns out that there is this bad-ass troll that lives in the swamp around there and we just killed his pets. So him and his troll buddy come down to feed us some whoop ass revenge of the troll. The battle started out ok, with everyone concentrating on the “weaker” of the two trolls. Then, Nask goes over to the boss troll and things go to shit (at least for him). The big-ass dude somehow manages to rend him while they’re grappling? Thus, Nask died as the rest of the party was not able to take out the dude quick enough to get to him before it was too late. There is a somber moment for Nask as Char (appropriately) burns his remains. The party is saddened by the loss, but knows that bigger things are at stake and must put it aside until that is cleared. The adventure continues…

    And that is why these are the tales of a Dead Pine dude.

  • Joel Watkins says:

    Santa looks grimly
    Red eyes glow between snowflakes
    Gandalf will perish

  • My gaming buddies and I were in college and were just getting into West End Games’ Star Wars roleplaying game. We gathered for New Year’s Eve at a friend’s house, played a lengthy Call of Cthulhu scenario, took a break to ring in the New Year and feast at a wonderful buffet the host’s mom set out, then settled in to create characters and start playing the infamous Tatooine Manhunt published adventure. We’d had a long day, were very tired, and started getting silly. So when the heroes encountered a contact in the cantina with a name that sounded a bit ribald, we all broke into hysterical laughter. After 15 minutes of uncontrolled silliness we gave up on the game. I always snicker quietly to myself whenever I think of Devaronians….

  • Mike Monaco says:

    Well here’s a session summary from my group’s campaign, a mashup of the slaver series, against the giants, and various other old modules. The party, constrained by Geases to serve the slave lords in their feud with the hill giants, stumbled upon a hidden shrine of an ancient society. The session here begins with the emergence of the party from the shrine complex and another assault on the hill giants. The pcs taking part are Finbar (cleric), Gornor (half-orc fighter/assassin), Othahalf (half-elf cleric/mu) and Noragor (ranger). Some other players couldn’t make it that time. Nothing holiday-specific but we played near xmas last year.

    Thanks, Gary, for taking us there

    Sunlight, at last.
    The adventurers had spent several days, it seemed, inside the ancient temple, and lost track of time completely. Their final ascent up narrow, steep stairs brought them to a strange altar atop the temple pyramid. Here they paused estimate the value of all the loot they’d gathered inside, detect magic, and find a spot to hide it all. For now their geas drew them inexorably on, and they knew they must make sure the giants were all dead and the giant’s money taken back to Suderham. Only Finbar, Norgor, Gornor, and Othuhalf felt strong enough to proceed. The others complained of rashes and iron deficiencies, so they waited with the loot, and promised to follow when they recovered.
    The four adventurers scouted out the area, and finding none of their Drow pursuers, decided to see what exactly had rocked the hill giants’ Stead. They found it oddly quiet and would have thought it abandoned, had not they found their horses stabled in the courtyard. Gornor sneaked in and found that the main feasting hall had a huge breach in one wall, as if the giants had chopped their way out of the room. The broken wall opened to a stairway down, and when Gornor heard sounds of animals gnawing, he got the others. The party descended warily, and Gornor, invisible, scouted ahead to find two carnivorous apes and ghoulish-looking hill giant. His attempt to poison the feeding apes went awry when they smelled him approach, for elvish boots and invisibility only beguile two senses. The party, realizing that the sentries were now alerted, charged.
    Noragor, Hasted and enjoying at last the benefits of his long years in Ranger Academy, hacked through the giant while the others dealt with the apes. The melee was over in a flash, and Norgor decided to charge on, taking full advantage of his Haste while it lasted. The party felled three more giants, sparking a rebellion among the orc slaves that effectively kept giant’s Bugbear allies out of the proceedings. and then found the chieftan and his last ten warriors all in single room. Norgor, arriving well ahead of the non-hasted characters, held the giants off for a few rounds, until the others arrived to pitch in as best they could. After an epic melee, all the giants were dead. The party looted the room, and realized there were still more giants… the women folk and children. Fade to black; one war crime later the party silently heaped gold and silver onto a wagon. Their downcast expressions left no doubt that they felt deep regret. They mourned the fact that this gold would be denied them, on account of the geas, but they took comfort in the fact that they had not compulsion to turn over the several bits of jewelry and even several magic items they recovered from the giants. As he wiped his blade clean on a hill giant infant’s bib, Gornor wondered what exactly Finbar meant when mumbled about crimes against humanity. Geas or no, surely they’d done humanity a service! Unless perhaps Finbar meant something about his own humanity. But Gornor had no time for soul-searching, for the next stop was Sunderham, and that meant either they’d all be fed to the dragon by the slavers, unless they came up with a plan.

  • David Baity says:

    At this year’s MACE convention held in Charlotte, NC I ran a holiday adventure where players took on the role of naughty children who were taken away by Krampus. Cursed to forever toil away on toys for the good children of the world, the children somehow felt the powerful charm that held sway over them had suddenly faltered.
    This set the stage for an ascent through the depths of a twisted mountain filled with holiday terror. The one encounter that rose above the night of laughs came when the group was attacked by twisted snowmen. The battle was fierce, with one child being bitten in half! I watched as one player (new to DCC) seemed to be lost in thought over the ensuing melee, and when it became his turn he looked at me and said in the most serious tone “I’m going to wait til the last possible moment while the snowman is charging me, and drop my pants and pee on it!” After several minutes of laughter, I rewarded the ingenious strategy with a new form of natural attack that scalds creatures formed from ice and snow!

    Merry Christmas!

  • Mike says:

    Here’s a poem I attempted to put together in the Kalevala meter… epic poetry for epic adventure, right? In retrospect I may have gotten carried away. It’s based on some of our gaming group’s annual “True Dungeon” adventures at Gen Con.

    Mighty city, ancient Greyhawk,
    Shining beacon for free peoples,
    Sits now troubled, sleeps uneasy,
    At her borders, Dragon fearsome
    Broods in temple long forgotten,
    Fiery Smoak upon her gold-hoard
    Undead now, her power waxing.

    Came then heroes ten in number,
    Desperate times and desperate measures,
    Wizards, cleric, thief and warriors
    Seek to breach the den of evil,
    Put to sword the fiery dragon,
    Undo undead Smoak the lich-wyrm,
    Restore peace for ancient Greyhawk,
    Win Smoak’s gold if they are able.

    Travel then in stealth and darkness
    To the smoking tower portal,
    Succor once, a holy refuge,
    Now perverted tomb and redoubt,
    Hole unholy, reeking evil.
    Bringing there the sacred sun-blade,
    Now rejoined to hilt evading,
    Ready to undo its folly
    When in hands of Pelor’s priestess
    Hilt itself had made Smoak undead.

    Now it seemed a cavern strangely
    Lit with unseen magic lanterns,
    Colored squares in center table
    And a key stuck in the stone-face.
    Flew then magic light around them
    Lit the walls and showed them arrows
    And revealed an exit hidden.
    “This I’ll pick to gain our egress,”
    Brash the rogue too eager boasted.
    They retrieved him from the floor then,
    Knocked out senseless by blue lightning.
    Thinking hard with trials and errors
    They extracted key from table,
    Not unscathed but still together.

    Finding next a darkened chamber,
    Heroes now proceed in blindness,
    Feeling walls and stumbling awkward,
    Find a bell when tripped upon it,
    Hung from pillar at the center.
    Then a voice calls ghostly, booming,
    “Strike the bell and our names tell us!”
    Wizard wisely taking caution,
    “Feel around friends for a clue now.”
    “This wall’s wet, adjacent stoney.”
    “Here a breeze proceeds from nowhere.”
    “Strangely here the wall is burning.”
    Pondered then the wizard thinking,
    He derived the riddle’s answer,
    “Elemental! Ring the bell now,
    Name the scions of the spirit.”
    Kraag, barbaric man of Northland,
    Rang the bell, the ghosts made answer,
    “Name us now or we shall burn thee!”
    Then spake Kraag but one word only,
    “Smash!”… companions stunned sat dumbstruck
    Burned they were, but not by spirits.

    Other trials they faced chthonic
    In and under curséd tower:
    Flying gargoyles, crafty harpies,
    Treasure chests tried to digest them,
    Banquets set and served in bondage,
    Shambling mounds of vegetation,
    Ogres, orcs and dread Sudoku,
    Riddles in a sorcerer’s lair,
    Illithids and charms of satyrs,
    Stirges, poisoned beer, and golems.

    Now at last they find their quarry,
    Find they there the dragon waking,
    Tattered body animated,
    Ill considers trifling humans,
    Barely worth her notice, speaks then:
    “Who now dares to gaze upon me,
    Mighty Smoak, a god of dragons?
    It is you whom I should thank now,
    Pelor’s Hilt Evading blessed me,
    By thine own hands you did king me,
    Bring me to my dread potential.
    Yet I’ll kill you in my mercy,
    Raise you zombies in my army!”
    “Dragon lich blaspheming devil!
    The hilt we bring now joined with blade,
    Die once more, depart forever,
    Trouble no more living peoples,
    Seek whatever hell awaits thee!”

  • Sean Holland says:

    We really have not done a lot of holiday themed games. But our last Shadowrun game featured a magic hat that possessed the wearer and gave them access to ice magic. An evil version of Frosty the Snowman.

  • Prowler says:

    I was DMing a party through Santa’s Workshop which was overtaken by naughty elves. I dumped out a bag of red and green M&M’s on the battlemat with the workshop outlined on it. Each M&M represented an elf. The elves swarmed the party, but the players got to “eat” any elves they picked off. It was deadly on both sides, but the players loved it, and still talk about that session.

  • Stu Ordana says:

    Well, I don’t have a holiday gaming story but I have always wanted to run Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (the Rankin-Bass holiday special) as an adventure in the Warhammer RPG. The adventurers are either hired by the Burgermeister to take down Kris Kringle and keep him from bringing toys into Sombertown or Kris and the elves hire the adventurers to help get the toys to town or to help get past the mountain of the evil ice wizard The Winter Warlock. Or maybe they find out that not only is the Burgermeister stealing and destroying toys, he is also kidnapping children and selling them as slaves to the Skaven. And it would be a musical adventure as the players would have to sing all the songs at the appropriate time.

    So that is my holiday story. I supported the Kickstarter for the Tales from the Fallen Empire, so it would be great to get the Gygax Magazine.

    Merry Christmas!

  • Joe Salvador says:

    Twas the night before Christmas,
    When all through the tavern,
    Not a creature was stirring,
    Not even a wyvern.
    The ale mugs were hung,
    Over the bar with care,
    In hopes that daring adventurers,
    Soon would be there.

    The dwarves were resting,
    Snug in there beds,
    While visions of gold-heaps,
    Danced in their heads.
    And the missus in her kerchief,
    And Tenk with his cap,
    Had just broke broke a keg,
    With a shiny new tap!

    When out in the street,
    There arose such a ruckus,
    Tenk sprang for his stool,
    To see what was the fuss.
    Away to the window,
    He cursed with a stutter,
    Pulled down the drapes,
    And broke down the shutter.

    The snow on the pate,
    Of a stumbling, drunken fool,
    Made Tenkar laugh,
    As he fell in a pool.
    When what to his wondering,
    Eyes should appear,
    But a faerie-made coach,
    And a demonic wagoneer.

    With horns and ears,
    And hooves like a buck,
    He new in a moment,
    It must be Lord Puck!
    More terrible than worgs,
    His coursers they came,
    and he sang and shouted,
    And called out Tenk’s name!

    “Come Tenkar, now Tenk!
    No need to be afright,
    For I fly to Greyhawk,
    This very same night!
    I’ve heard tell of yer tavern,
    As far as Blackmoor,
    Come now, man,
    And throw open yer door!”

    Tenk did this with haste,
    And bade him onto the floor,
    And served up fine mead,
    The best in his store.
    “Ye got brandy most fine,
    And lovely meal on yer plates,
    And I hope ye don’t mind,
    But I’ve invited me mates.”

    With a clap of thunder,
    The taproom was filled,
    With creatures and beasties,
    And ladies in gild.
    There Strahd! There Loki!
    There Acererak and Iuz!
    Merriment they made,
    And drank all the booze.

    In the morn Tenk awoke,
    With much hesitation,
    Certainly he dreamt,
    The night’s celebration.
    But there on the floor,
    He couldn’t believe his sight,
    For Strahd had passed out,
    And now slept in sunlight!

    But there beneath the tree,
    Puck had paid for his folly,
    And left mounds of gifts,
    To Tenk’s great jolly!

  • Michael Guerra says:

    The Wanderer was a palladium worshiper of the gods of death,
    he cared little for holidays carried on normal man’s breath.
    The only celebrating he believed
    was in the burning of dead felled trees.
    No heart did grow that day, ‘cept those that bleed into his bowl;
    this dead champion cleric Wanderer Soul.

  • david says:

    I was running AD&D TOEE a few years back during Christmas IRL, and the players were holed up in the bandits’ tower while it was snowing outside. During the night, I told them they heard bumps on the top of the tower. They thought it was best to stay inside and wait until the morning. Due to the nature of the weather, many of them had taken off their boots and left them by the fireplace.

    Suddenly, they all fell asleep, no save. When they woke up they almost all found something left for them in their boots. There were minor magical items and potions. The barbarian received a small wooden toy, and the half-ogre got coal because he had the golden skull and was slowly turning evil.

    They were shocked to find out the door was still bolted shut from the inside. When they went outside they found no tracks in the snow. It took them a minute to figure out what happened, but when they did we had a good long laugh… until Iuz showed up…

  • goeticgeek says:

    I played in a Christmas themed Call of Cthulhu game with a plot involving involving the Krampus. I was given a pre-generated character who was a very angry, abused, juvenile delinquent, little girl who habitually carried a knife. The character background really stressed how bitter and angry the child was and how the child vented the powerlessness they felt on anyone around them.

    I remember the plot only vaguely but it involved the naughty children of an orphanage, including my character, being taken to the Dreamlands to meet and be tormented by the Krampus. The torments that we suffered from the Krampus were really intense and the orphans were really made to feel a kind of vulnerability that only a child betrayed by all who were supposed to love them could feel. The Keeper laid it on thick.

    It was gradually revealed that the Krampus wasn’t the Krampus at all but was the dream-self of the director of the orphanage who had been abused himself and there was also a love interest involved as well. The player characters were put in a position where, once they were able to figure out the Krampus’s true identity, they could save the Orphanage’s Director and gain a form of redemption for themselves.

    The Keeper in this case was leaning towards a feel-good, happy ending but, come on, this is Call of Cthulhu, and my character, according to my interpretation of her background, was having none of it. Once it was revealed to my character that the Krampus, the supernatural being who had abused her and once again made her feel utterly powerless, was a mere mortal, the little girl jumped him and stabbed him to death with her knife in front of his lost love and the other children. The Keeper was really pissed off that I ruined his happy ending but I really saw no other alternative given the circumstances. It was the Keeper’s own fault really, he created the character of the very angry little girl and he did give her that knife.

  • The tale of Theldar the Bold. Or the Clumsy. Or just Theldar.

    We once had a Paladin in our group who went by the name of Theldar the Bold. Theldar was neither particularly pious, doing the bare minimum to stay within the good graces of his patron deity, nor was he particularly bright. But, as his sobriquet suggests, he was, indeed, bold. During a series of 1e adventures (I believe it was the U series), our hero had the following happen to him:

    *He burst through a rotting door to surprise what he thought were a group of baddies in the room, only to fall through the floorboards on the other side. What he thought were a group of baddies turned out to be a magic mouth on the wall. A green slime on the ceiling directly above where he fell promptly started dripping on him, dissolving his armor.

    *Being mostly naked, our hero finds a cloak in a cupboard and decides to cover up with it, only to find it’s been infected with yellow spores. Cue failed save and coughing.

    * Later, after securing a passable set of replacement armor, Theldar wades across a fast moving river and finds himself sucked under. He is forced to rapidly doff his new armor or face drowning as a result. Easy choice.

    * Upon being stupefied, accidentally beseeches a competing deity for aid, resulting in all sorts of hilarity for the other players.

    * Wades into the thick of what he thought were a group of zombies with the intent of turning some and acting as a shield/tank for the rest of the party, only to find out that he could not affect these particular undead. They were, in fact, simply a group of monsters (bugbears, goblins, hobs? I can’t remember…) who were disguised by a powerful illusionist.

    There was so much more that I can’t remember. Basically, whatever could go wrong in Theldar’s adventuring life, did. Thankfully, I had one of the most good-natured players I’ve ever DM’d and he just rolled his eyes at every d20 that came up showing a one. And there were a lot of them.

  • Ran a thanksgiving game. The villain was a mistreated cook at a castle. He studied the dark arts and used mutated turkeys and sentient gravy against the employers who mistreated him. It was fun.

  • James says:

    Jon that is a great story. I love the fact that you ran this person through their first RPG with a Vietnam scenario.So many people get their first introduction through fantasy settings.Not that this is a bad thing, (mine was Moldvey D&D back in 82) but sometimes the Tolkien fantasy type setting is not what should be on the menu.

  • James says:

    Kelly, the first poem in this thread. I love it! Anyone who uses “Smacked Around” is OK in my book.

  • James says:

    Rob, I ran a Cyberpunk 2013 game a few years ago where a terminator was sent back in time to take out a strategic Macys store. Very cool!

  • James says:

    Tim! A realms story. Rock on! It was a good read too. Very wordy, but that’s OK. The writing was well done and I was engaged all the way.

  • James says:

    OMG Joel, A Haiku! Sweet! You have just moved yourself up the favorite list.

  • James says:

    Hmmm Peter, you really know how to play your audience! the WEG Star Wars RPG is probably my favorite RPG of all times. Just, Yes! Christmas gathering + Star Wars is a powerful combination.

  • James says:

    Well done Mike!The poem had great pacing and it was about Greyhawk. Yea, a little wordy, but great content.
    My favorite verse:
    Other trials they faced chthonic
    In and under curséd tower:
    Flying gargoyles, crafty harpies,
    Treasure chests tried to digest them,
    Banquets set and served in bondage,
    Shambling mounds of vegetation,
    Ogres, orcs and dread Sudoku,
    Riddles in a sorcerer’s lair,
    Illithids and charms of satyrs,
    Stirges, poisoned beer, and golems.

  • James says:

    Sean, did the hat just give ice powers or did the wearer look like a snowman? The visual I am getting is pretty cool. A snowman with an Aries Predator would be a scary (yet cool sight) to behold.

  • James says:

    Brilliant Prowler! Food as bennies is always a good time… well with clean hands and a sense of adventure. I have done with with peanut butter cups in the past. The other benefit is everyone is on a sugar high.

  • James says:

    Stu, any Rankin and Bass holiday special would make an awesome WHFRP scenario. Great, now I got “We are Santa’s Elves” playing in my head. Man, I wish I could have been in that game. WHFRP is an awesome game (I play second edition), but no one here in CT want to play.
    Thank you for backing the Kickstarter! The final module owed to the backs is already edited, the layout is done, I just need to get into you hands.

  • James says:

    Wow Joe that was cool. I believe Dwarves have visions of gold piles dancing in their heads all year around =)
    The fact that you added Tenkar into the poem is doubly awesome.
    This is going to be a hard call. Well a few more to read.

  • James says:

    Very nice Michael. Were you making a reference to the Palladium RPG? The poem sounds like something recited on Melniboné during one of their twisted holidays. Very cool.

  • James says:

    Sorry I am running late on rating all these wonderful contributions. I will read more tomorrow and have my winners list up shortly after. There are so many great entries here, I may have to throw in some extra prizes. Thanks for being patient. Between RL job and some projects I am working on with TSR, it’s been crazy.

  • James says:

    OK, sorry about the wait. January has been a crazy month, but I finally had time to finish reading the rest of the Christmas stories.
    Again I want to thank you all for submitting. I feel bad that I don’t have the resources to give everyone a gift. I am adding three additional mystery gifts though. Something small, but fun.

    Here We go!
    Hardcover TftFE w/ Screen goes to: Joe Salvador
    Softcover TftFE w/ Screen goes to: Matt Snodgrass

    Next up are issue six of Gygax Magazine (who knows guys this could be a collector’s item)
    Stu Ordana
    Mike Greyhawk Poem Guy

    Mystery Prize Winners
    Michael Guerra
    Joel Watkins

    Please send me an email to jamesgygaxmagazinecom with how to mail stuff out to you. Try to get it out soon as I believe I am shutting down this email address sometime in March.

    Thanks again everyone!

  • James says:

    Let’s try this again james-at-gygaxmagazine-dot-com

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